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February 03, 2010

Financial Cooperative Movement Mobilizes to Assist Damaged CUs in Haiti

Biometric ID Cards and Existing CU Network Help Members Access Funds

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2010_2_3_Retrieving forms at KOTELAM CU
Credit union workers retrieve forms from the crumbled remains of KOTELAM's Magoire Ambrose branch office. Photo by Christian Kober.

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and its program partners in Haiti, with assistance from the Dominican Republic's credit union movement, have mobilized to collect and deliver emergency supplies to Haiti's damaged and destroyed credit unions, known as caisse populaires. Credit unions left standing have used their existing network to help displaced members of damaged institutions access their accounts with biometric identification cards and receive much-needed remittances.

Federation Le Levier, a US$52 million-asset network of 16 credit unions that serve 300,000 Haitians nationwide, is helping frontline institutions that serve poor and low-income populations push crucial resources out to their members. Le Levier credit unions lost five staff members in the earthquake, and eight of the member institutions were damaged. Three of the credit unions -- KOTELAM, CLEF and CPSA -- lost key offices from which they serve an aggregate 50,000 members. KOTELAM, the largest credit union in Port-au-Prince, suffered severe damage to its headquarters, credit office and a branch office. In nearby Leogane, CLEF collapsed entirely, and looters took safes and equipment from both CLEF and Port-au-Prince-based CPSA.

Le Levier and its member credit unions are key partners of the Haiti Integrated Finance for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) program, which began in June 2009. The program, designed to encourage a dynamic Haitian economy by increasing the availability of financial products and services, is now working to rapidly mobilize initiatives to support economic recovery following the earthquake. HIFIVE is implemented by WOCCU under USAID's FIELD-Support Leader with Associates (LWA) cooperative agreement managed by the Academy for Educational Development (AED) and funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). TechnoServe is providing additional marketing support for value chains involved in the program.

2010_2_3_CLEF credit union in ruins
The office of CLEF credit union in Leogane was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Photo by Christian Kober.

Haiti's credit unions also are being assisted by the Asociación de Instituciones Rurales de Ahorro y Crédito (AIRAC), the Dominican Republic's credit union association and a WOCCU member. AIRAC is securing tents and food supplies for Pétionville-based Le Levier staff members - some without homes - who are working around the clock with a damaged office building to rebuild the federation's network systems.

Supported by USAID/Haiti, Le Levier's investment last year in biometric ID cards and inter-institutional connectivity among its members is helping facilitate recovery. At the time of the earthquake, members had already mobilized total savings of US$35 million and had a credit portfolio of US$30 million. The ID cards permit members from each of the 16 affiliated credit unions access to their accounts at any other member institution.

Credit unions in the same geographic zone are also sharing facilities in order to accommodate member institutions that have lost their buildings. Though destroyed in the earthquake, KOTELAM is creating a special office to aid members who have lost their records and identification. Rural credit unions that were structurally unaffected are providing teller space and responding to the high demand for liquidity.

WOCCU this week is coordinating a meeting with its microfinance partners, including Le Levier and other financial service providers in Haiti, to share information, review damage assessments, coordinate financial and technical assistance, discuss financial sector priorities for providing relief and rebuilding and consider longer term priorities in view of Haiti's situation. The coordination of these institutions through both formal and informal networks will be crucial for restoring much-needed financial services to the people of Haiti.

To support WOCCU's relief efforts on behalf of Haiti's credit unions and their members, make payments via check, credit card or wire to:

Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, Inc., 5710 Mineral Point Road, Madison, WI 53705, USA

Donations may be made online with a credit card at www.woccu.org /give. For wire transfer information, contact: Valerie Breunig, Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, 608-395-2055 or vbreunig@woccu.org. Please indicate that your donation is for the Haiti Disaster Relief Fund.

U.S. credit unions can also support WOCCU's relief efforts by donating through the National Credit Union Foundation's CUAid system at www.CUAid.coop.



World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development agency for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions' financial performance and increase their outreach.

World Council has implemented more than 290 technical assistance programs in 71 countries. Worldwide, 57,000 credit unions in 103 countries serve 208 million people. Learn more about World Council's impact around the world at www.woccu.org.

 


NOTE: Click on photos to view/download in high resolution.

Contact: Rebecca Carpenter
Organization: World Council of Credit Unions
E-mail: rcarpenter@woccu.org
Phone: +1-608-395-2031
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